UN deminers in southern Lebanon to be honoured with top award

Other News Materials 16 September 2008 00:47 (UTC +04:00)

The United Nations refugee agency announced Monday that its top honour will go to the world body's bomb disposal experts for their work in southern Lebanon clearing munitions which have threatened the lives of civilians since the 2006 conflict with Israel.

The Nansen Refugee Award will be given to the UN Mine Action Coordination Centre of South Lebanon for its efforts to rid the region of cluster munitions and other dangerous remnants of war to allow the safe return of civilians in the area.

"Through their painstaking work and devotion, the team has created the conditions for a safe and dignified return home for almost one million displaced Lebanese," said António Guterres, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

Christopher Clark, who heads the mine clearing operation in Lebanon, will receive the award on behalf of the centre's staff and 1,000 deminers at a ceremony in Geneva on 6 October, along with a cheque for 100,000 dollars to donate to a cause of their choice.

"I congratulate my colleagues in southern Lebanon for their impressive achievement," said Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Alain LeRoy, whose department oversees the work of the centre.

"Their actions have benefited so many people - not only the returning refugees and internally displace persons (IDPs), but also the humanitarian relief workers and our peacekeepers," he added.

The award is named after Nobel Peace Laureate Fridtjof Nansen, who served as the first High Commissioner for Refugees. Previous recipients of the honour include Eleanor Roosevelt, King Juan Carlos I of Spain and Queen Juliana of the Netherlands.

UN efforts to rid Lebanon of cluster bombs have been under way since the 33-day war between Israel and Hezbollah ended on August 17, 2006. Earlier estimates from UN experts had suggested a total of about 100 cluster bomb sites.

Since the war ended in 2006, 27 civilians have been killed and 234 wounded by unexploded ordnance, mostly cluster munitions, while 13 bomb disposal experts have been killed and 39 wounded, dpa reported.